The Suitcase In My Closet

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					  The Suitcase In My Closet

         ork on the long-promised and much-             Recently, however, we’ve become aware of
         anticipated Post-Loss Radio Study is       a passage in a letter that Amelia wrote to her
         proceeding well and we’re hoping to be     mother in December of 1934 which provides a
ready to send it out to all TIGHAR members in       possible explanation. AE and her husband, along
June. Much of the delay in completing the report    with Paul Mantz and his wife, had sailed from
has been due to the need to investigate new         California for Hawaii on December 20 aboard
information that keeps turning up. For example,     the Matson liner S.S. Lurline with Amelia’s red
we recently discovered a remarkable parallel to     Lockheed Vega strapped to the aft tennis deck.
one of the more cryptic passages transcribed in     It was a poorly kept secret that she was planning
Betty’s Notebook* in a letter written by Amelia     to attempt the first Hawaii to the U.S. mainland
to her mother.                                      flight.
    At roughly one hour into her reception of           The day after Christmas, as the ship was
the alleged transmissions from Earhart, Betty       nearing Honolulu, AE wrote a long chatty letter
wrote down:                                         to her mother Amy who was house-sitting in
    George                                          California. That fall, George and Amelia had
    get the suitcase in my closet                   decided to move their place of residence from
    Calif.                                          the Putnam home in Rye, New York to the Los
                                                    Angeles area where GP could be near Paramount
Her later recollection of the entire phrase was:
                                                    Studios for whom he was working at that time and
    “Tell my husband George to get the suit-        Amelia could be near the Lockheed plant in Bur-
    case in my closet in California.”               bank where the Vega was undergoing overhaul in
    It seems like a strange thing for someone in    preparation for the Honolulu/Oakland flight. They
Earhart’s supposed position to say. If the voice    had set up housekeeping in a rented bungalow
Betty heard really was Amelia’s, the situation      at 10515 Valley Spring Lane near Toluca Lake in
was desperate and her survival very much in         North Hollywood and persuaded Amy, who was
question. What could possibly be in the suitcase    living with AE’s sister Muriel and her family in
that would be that important? We even asked         Massachusetts, to come out for a long visit.
the Putnam family if they knew of any papers            In the December 26 letter to her mother,
or items that may have been found in a suitcase     Amelia covers a multitude of subjects from the
after AE’s death, but they knew of nothing like     tropical weather, to the shipboard gossip her
that. For some, the presence of such an appar-      airplane is generating, to preparations for the
ently trivial phrase casts serious doubt upon the   upcoming flight. Toward the end of the letter
possible authenticity of the entire incident.       she wrote:

May 2003                                                                                           5
      “G.P. said you were an awfully good
    sport to stay alone in the little house. I
    said I had known that a long time.
      “I have taken possession of the stuff in
    the zipper compartment of my briefcase.
    Put it away until I turn up and if I don’t
    – burn it. It consists of fragments that
    mean nothing to anybody but me.”
    Just what it was that she wanted burned in
the event of her death could be a subject for
endless tabloid speculation, but the nature of
the “stuff” is not important to our investigation.
What is interesting is the synchronicity between
the instructions to her mother in December 1934
and the putative instructions to her husband
in 1937. The existence of extremely private
papers and/or items that AE kept in a briefcase
at home and her instructions to a close family
member to retrieve the material for destruc-
tion “if I don’t turn up” has the appearance of
being a documented precedent for the passage
in Betty’s Notebook and one which a member
of the general public could not possibly know
    There are, of course, questions. Why did
AE need to “take possession” of such private
items? From whose possession did she take
them? And how did a briefcase in 1934 become
a suitcase in 1937? The answers can only be
speculative, but the startling similarity between
the two events is undeniable. We are forced to
consider which of two highly unlikely events is
the more improbable:
•	 that	 a	 nonsensical	 passage	 in	 a	 misunder-
    stood or hoaxed radio transmission hap-
    pened to mimic a real-life secret.
•	 a	15	year	old	girl	in	Florida	heard	a	desperate	
   call from Amelia Earhart.

*Betty Klenck heard distress calls from a person she believed
was Amelia Earhart on her family’s short-wave radio in July
1937. She transcribed words and phrases of what she heard
in a notebook that still exists. For a complete description of
the notebook and the transcriptions see Betty’s Notebook
on the TIGHAR website at

TIGHAR Tracks                                                    6

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